Our 2017 fall trip across three 4,000′ mountains was so much fun. We had to hike and camp again. When planning our new adventure, I scanned the peaks to the south of our prior journey. The the proposed trip spanned at least four 4000′ peaks and 30 miles of the Appalachian Trail (AT). We discussed running this trip or a shorter versions of it, but mountain snows and cold temperatures changed our minds.
John T suggested another AT trip, involving 25 miles, 2 leantos, just one mountain, and camping next to a lake. We dropped a vehicle at Lake Moxie, our finish, and brought everyone and their gear east to Monson. I gave my friends a tour and brief town history as we breezed past a handful of old and new buildings. Excitement boiled over as we packed our gear and finally hit the trail.
After passing through mostly level terrain, the trail traveled up and down along shoulders of small mountains. Soon we approached the East Branch of the Piscataquis River. Further downstream, this river passed through my home town. Here, interesting wooden canyons ran along its shores. Land tumbled down to the waters below. Dark pools emptied into white waterfalls cupped by boulders and small cliffs.
By noon the second day, we forded two small streams before encountering a larger crossing with a rope stretched over it. I removed my hiking boots and tossed one across. My throw was horrible, as I tried to sling it by the laces. The boot landed in the middle of the stream. We had another 18 miles to go! I raced down the shoreline as my boot bobbed up and down like a small vessel. I seized a tree branch and steered the boot to shore. Amazingly, my boot was dry. I threw it safely across the stream and waded the waters wearing my crocs and a little bit of shame.
After witnessing this incident, my friend Sean believe he had a better way to cross the stream. He eyeballed the rope stretching across the cold October waters. Sean clamped his hands and feet around the rope and inched towards the other shore. As he reached the middle, the rope stretched lower and lower. Soon his backpacked brushed the water surface. Realizing he would never make it, he retreated. As he neared the shore, Sean lost his grip on the rope and bounced off a boulder and into the water. He escaped to dry land within moments, changed into dry clothes, and later waded across.
John T, on the other hand, crossed the stream in style. He stripped down to his tidy whities and did not have a mishap. We joked about another friend who would have forded the waters naked.
From here, the trail leveled out as we traveled what must be wet walking in the spring. Trail builders arranged many large stones to keep the hiker’s feet above the ground. We camped at a leanto near Bald Mountain Pond, where we met our first thru hiker, Triple Zero. I’m guessing his name is spelled that way. He was originally born in Malaysia but lived in Georgia most recently, and now planned to finish the trail before winter makes the trip impossible. He mentioned there was one guy behind him. I shuddered a bit thinking of the cold nights, snowy trails and icy peaks that lay ahead.
The next morning, we encountered our first and only mountain, Bald Mountain. Before reaching the summit, we met another thru hiker who had little time to talk. We told him about Triple Zero, and he responded with “I’ll catch him”, all with a wild look of aggression and no fear on his face. He said there were a few behind him.
The barren Bald Mountain summit showed signs of a fire a while ago that cleared many trees. Only their white stumps remained. The wind blew strong and cold, keeping us from admiring the views of Sugarloaf, Bigelow, and nearby mountains. Pictures are never the same as staring into a series of peaks.
We dropped down the west side and encountered numerous interesting granite overhangs and crevices, an area to explore off trail in the future. We stopped and talked with a local guy and third hiker as we descended Bald. He obviously hiked western Maine and the White Mountains extensively. Lucky man.
The trail eventually flattened out and returned us to a vehicle. We took photos, saddled gear into the vehicle, exchanged man hugs, and began the journey home.